by Michelle Kiang
I don’t remember how I first found Franchesca Ramsey, also known as chescaleigh, on youtube, but I do remember playing her vlogs (video blogs) in the background of my calculus homework my senior year of high school, sharing her videos with my friends, and continuing to watch her in college. I did not realize it then, but aside from being hilarious and producing quality content, I subscribed to her channel and stuck around because, I had finally found a comedic voice that was not white and male like the rest of the youtubers I had been watching since around 2006. Her voice became an incredibly important part of the way I saw myself as a creator, and the way I would continue to use the internet.
In January of 2012, Franchesca uploaded a video titled “Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls” as a response to the youtube trend of parodies called “Sh*t ______ say” that poked fun at the way different groups of people talk, and her video went viral. After quickly gaining attention, Franchesca began to appear in various news outlets, including this interview with Anderson Cooper, to discuss the inspiration behind the video and how it fit within contemporary understandings of race and racism.
During this time in my “journey” towards understanding structures of power and becoming more radicalized, I was mainly concerned with calling racism out when I saw it without considering context, and where others might be in their own journeys. Because of this, I was disappointed when Franchesca did not name the microaggressions in her video as actions rooted in anti-blackness. I stopped watching her and youtube in general and went on with college/life.
Chescaleigh appeared in my internet sphere again, when I saw this video someone I followed on tumblr had posted, in which she calls out white feminists on their racist actions and behavior, and discusses respectability politics and the ways in which women of color creators are consistently undervalued and shut out of the industry. This is a part of the transcribed audio:
“I am so fucking sick of these women patting themselves on the back for calling out the patriarchy while being fucking racist. And what pisses me off, is even when I don’t curse, and I’m so professional and complimentary of your work, you still gaslight the fuck out of me! And this is why respecability politics are not shit. Cause even when I don’t curse, and I play nice and compliment your work, y'all still treat me like the fucking angry black woman.”
Watching Franchesca grow just as I did in her understanding of the complexity of oppression, power, activism and our roles within them as young women of color creators makes me feel connected and validated in my own feminism. Her work and the ways in which she is always sharing what she learns and educating a massive amount of people on the internet on slut shaming, microaggressions, social responsibility, etc. makes her one of many incredible youtube activists today, but it is her continuing honesty and integrity, which have outlasted her fame and contracts, that makes her a feminist hero.
These are some of my favorite videos by Franchesca Ramsey, aside from “Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls,” that you should definitely watch as soon as you can.